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Tiki Cocktails, Polynesian Drinking Going Upscale

Tiki Cocktails, Polynesian Drinking Going Upscale

Hurricanes, Scorpions and Zombie Punch: Tiki cocktails are going upscale in North America, here's where to get the best in five of the hottest cocktail cities.

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Tiki cocktails are in this year, says Montréal mixologist extraordinaire, Graham Warner. That means artisanal versions of rum-heavy, cabana-friendly drinks (think mini umbrellas and fresh, exotic fruit juices) will be popping up on coconut-palmed and lei-draped patios throughout North America. Now sun-thirsty patrons can have a taste of their last Caribbean vacation without hopping a plane south. Best of all, the trend makes it more than socially acceptable—recommended, even—for well-dressed crowds to sip from plastic straws plunged into bright red, fruity concoctions…so long as they're served in hip locales with a well-curated wine list for those more into Tempranillo than tiki. Lovers of Hurricanes, Mai Tais, and Planter’s Punch, it turns out that all you need to change a city into a beach are a couple ounces of estate rum and punch bowls for two.

Here’s where to get the best tiki drinks in five of North America’s hottest cocktail cities.

1. Shojo, Boston, Asian tiki bar
Descend into this subterranean watering hole for Asian-inspired classics. You’ll need to specify whether by “classic” you mean classic tiki (the Scorpion Bowl for Two is a smile-inducing, friend-making concoction) or Bourbon Manhattans. Barman, Reuben, can deftly handle either, but for an original tiki creation, try the Chairman’s Painkiller with spiced rum, pineapple gomme syrup, coconut cream and orange.

2. Frankie's Tiki Room, Las Vegas
This famous 24-hour tiki bar off-the-strip is known for its tiki kitsch. Patrons from all walks of life and levels of inebriation enjoy its "lava letch" cocktail (demon rum, brandy, raspberry liqueur, and ginger beer.) Though neither upscale nor innovative, Frankie’s is riding tiki’s current wave of popularity. The furniture may have even existed since tiki’s heyday in the 1930’s and 40’s. For the ultimate tacky tiki experience, settle in with a Wild Watusi (rum, mango, lime, and orange with a 160-proof float) from an angry-looking oversized, carved cup. Nobody’s going to judge you for not wearing skinny jeans here.

3. Tiki in Montreal’s Chinatown
Graham Warner and business partner, Dave Schmidt, are both tiki believers, which is why they’re launching their latest Montréal venture this April with a heavy tiki bent. The as yet unnamed bar in Montréal’s Chinatown will feature tropical beverages served in exotic fruit glasses accompanying a classic cocktail menu and a curated wine and beer list. “The gist is that you could be sitting next to someone drinking a tiki classic out of a carved-out pineapple while you drink a glass of Chablis,” says Schmidt. Schmidt wants customers to feel as satisfied with their experience as he did after his first “Jet Pilot” cocktail at Drink in Boston (where the second Sunday of every month is Tiki Sunday), another combined tiki and classic cocktail establishment. Time will tell if the Jet Pilot (three kinds of rum, lime and grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup, falernum, Angostura bitters, and Pernod) makes it onto the menu.

4. Rhum Corner in Toronto
Jen Agg of the beloved Black Hoof Café and Black Hoof Cocktail Bar decided to have some fun with her latest venture: a Jamaican-inspired rum shrine on Toronto’s popular Dundas West strip. (Good luck finding a chair, and even better luck finding vodka). Wash down stellar jerk chicken with punch-packing drinks including Wray and Tings (Wray and Nephew overproof rum with ting), lighthearted (but alcohol-heavy) daiquiri and piña colada slushes, and the best rum selection in the city.

5. Teardrop Cocktail Lounge in Portland, Oregon
The west coast has been slower picking up the tiki trend than the east, but how could hip Portland not latch on to the latest drinking trend? At Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, patrons enjoy Champion’s Cups made for 2-6 people with gin, lillet blanc, grapefruit, charred pineapple bitters, coconut palm sugar and pu’erh tea. The menu is extensive, however; if you’re on the fence about what to order, feel safe choosing solely by name: neither the “Diki-Diki” nor the “Spanish Prisoner” will lead you astray.

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